In late January, Israeli Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi expressed that any return by the United States under President Joe Biden to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would be “wrong”. Kochavi, the Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, is a central figure in Israel’s military decisions and operations whose comments would have likely been pre-approved by Israeli government officials. Yet the JCPOA – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – is a critical pathway to peace and co-operation between the US and Iran within the context of a post-Trump administration where tensions have escalated considerably. Kochavi’s words were delivered during the announcement that Israel’s military had revised its operational plans against Iran, specifically as a response to the country’s nuclear program that it currently pursues. Trita Parsi, an analyst from the Quincy Institute, remarked on the announcement explaining that, “one of Netanyahu’s ministers said publicly that if the United States re-joins the nuclear deal – which is something Biden believes lies in the US’ national interest – Israel would go to war”. These remarks by a colleague of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are disconcerting and problematic for various reasons.
A different relationship – one that is based on communication and trust from both sides – between the US and Iran must be established in the coming years under the Biden administration. The decision of then-President Donald Trump to withdraw from the JCPOA was controversial and reckless, as it provided opportunity for countries globally to work together in preventing the outbreak of war. For so many Iranians, sanctions have had a devastating impact on local civilians and their livelihoods. For their sake, both the US and Iran must overcome such terrible legacies left by Trump. It is Israel’s political interest to keep Iran in isolation from other countries globally, conveying the reasoning behind Kochavi’s words. Political scientists have also argued that it is in the interests of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to curtail Iran’s regional influence. Biden will thus have to juggle a political alliance with Israel, or a more progressively positive stance with Iran to overcome the current turbulent relationship.
Biden stated in an interview that he believed in returning to the 2015 JCPOA. Iran have also expressed a willingness in returning to the deal late last year, meaning there is hope yet. Since his inauguration, Biden has implemented positive steps forward for the U.S, specifically with regards to the country’s response to climate change. Biden has halted fossil fuel activity on public lands and directed the US government to begin efforts towards reducing planet-heating emissions. This is promising. If Biden is already passing through policies that are radically opposite to his predecessor, there are chances that he will apply the same approach in rebuilding relations with Iran.
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